SK Telecom T1 looked in fine form Friday against Royal Never Give Up in the first Mid-Season Invitational semifinal, beating the Chinese champions three games to one in a dominating display. After a 2-4 start to the tournament, SKT won its last four games of the round robin stage, and took that momentum into this series to clinch a spot in its second straight MSI Final.
SKT dropped the first game of the series, thanks to an incredible game from Looper on a smart Trundle pick. But SKT adapted its strategy and saw a resurgence from Faker into top form, with a series-high 24 kills. It all culminated in a perfect game for SKT in Game 4, knocking out the home crowd favorites who had entered the semifinal round as the No. 1 seed.
SKT now advances to face the winner of Counter Logic Gaming vs. Flash Wolves, which will be played Saturday. No matter which team wins that series, SKT will be a heavy favorite to win it all Sunday.
Game 1: Royal Never Give Up vs. SK Telecom T1
Win: RNG (11-12, 41:50)
All tournament long, we had seen basically the same three picks in the top lane: Maokai, Ekko and Poppy. RNG used this to its advantage in the draft phase, banning Maokai and Ekko to bait SKT into picking Poppy. RNG countered the Poppy pick with Trundle, and thanks to an early gank from mlxg's Nidalee, Looper won his lane against Duke. Hard. RNG used that to snowball the game, winning the first in this series in convincing fashion.
Looper solo killed Duke at 10 minutes, opening up a sizable lead in the lane, and when RNG took Rift Herald a few minutes later they gave it to Looper (it was the first time all tournament the buff wasn't given to mlxg). Now with extra pushing power, Looper took down the top outer turret at 14 minutes and the mid outer turret a minute later, opening up a 4k gold lead for the Chinese squad.
At 24 minutes, Duke and Faker spent 25 seconds chasing Looper down the top lane, trying to catch him. It went horribly wrong, as Looper was able to make it back to the safety of his tower and turn it around for a double kill (with some late help from mlxg and Mata). Ten minutes later, RNG took Baron and won the extended ensuing team fight 4-1 thanks to another late teleport from Duke, breaking open SKT's base and opening a commanding 10k gold lead.
With Baron buff and a fifth Dragon taken, RNG took all three inhibitors and one Nexus turret before being pushed back by two SKT kills. On RNG's second Nexus siege attempt, SKT killed every RNG member but Looper, but the Trundle was able to stay alive and take down the Nexus for the win.
Bans: Maokai, Alistar, Ekko; Azir, Twitch, Ryze
|Looper (Trundle) 3||5/3/4||347||Duke (Poppy) 1||0/2/6||306|
|mlxg (Nidalee) 1||0/3/7||230||Blank (Graves) 2||4/2/8||221|
|xiaohu (LeBlanc) 3||3/2/4||354||Faker (Fizz) 3||7/3/4||319|
|Wuxx (Lucian) 2||3/1/1||436||Bang (Sivir) 1||1/2/5||493|
|Mata (Braum) 2||0/3/6||43||Wolf (Soraka) 2||0/2/10||24|
Game 2: Royal Never Give Up vs. SK Telecom T1
Win: SKT (19-3, 23:32)
If Game 1 was Looper's showcase as Trundle, Game 2 was Faker's time to shine on Azir. It's one of the only times we've seen xiaohu behind on his signature LeBlanc, and Faker turned an early lane lead into a dominant performance, tying up the series for his team.
Faker picked up his first kill of the game at nine minutes, solo killing xiaohu. Four minutes later, an excellent counter engage from SKT and consistent damage output from Faker and Bang turned what looked like a good pick from RNG into a 4-1 SKT team fight.
By 18 minutes, Faker was 3/0/4 and Bang was 4/0/4, with a 5k gold lead for their team. SKT continued its push, taking a Nexus turret by 19 minutes, and ending the game just four minutes later.
Bans: Maokai, Alistar, Ekko; Twitch, Lucian, Nidalee
|Looper (Ryze) 1||0/4/1||173||Duke (Poppy) 3||1/0/8||136|
|mlxg (Kindred) 2||2/4/0||107||Blank (Elise) 2||4/1/7||79|
|xiaohu (LeBlanc) 3||1/2/0||149||Faker (Azir) 1||7/0/6||170|
|Wuxx (Kalista) 3||0/4/2||206||Bang (Sivir) 1||6/0/10||224|
|Mata (Braum) 2||0/5/2||17||Wolf (Soraka) 2||1/2/14||16|
Game 3: Royal Never Give Up vs. SK Telecom T1
Win: SKT (22-10, 36:25)
RNG tried to mimic its Game 1 strategy with an aggressive early game composition, picking a gank-heavy jungler in Elise and a hard-engage support in Leona. But SKT stalled and survived in the early game, keeping the gold even and eventually snowballing advantages to take the series lead.
At 11 minutes, Faker teleported top, killing Looper and mlxg and setting off a sequence of events that built a big SKT lead. Duke teleported bottom, killing Wuxx, and Faker took the long walk from the top lane to the bottom, killing mlxg once again and finishing the extended fight 4-0 in SKT's favor.
It looked like RNG's team composition was starting to come together at 16 minutes, when Mata and mlxg successfully picked off three kills, bringing SKT's gold lead down to 1k. mlxg even picked up a miraculous solo kill against Blank, but as a result Faker notched his fourth kill of the game.
At 28 minutes, SKT won a team fight near Baron for a 5-2 ace. Three minutes later, Bang picked up a triple kill in a clean 3-0 team fight for SKT, allowing them to pick up Baron. At 34 minutes, RNG picked off Bang and Faker, but SKT won a 4 vs. 5 team fight 5-0 with a triple kill for Bang, allowing them to end the game.
Bans: Maokai, Alistar, Ryze; Twitch, Lucian, Nidalee
|Looper (Poppy) 2||1/3/1||322||Duke (Ekko) 1||6/0/8||359|
|mlxg (Elise) 3||6/6/4||130||Blank (Graves) 2||3/1/11||179|
|xiaohu (Azir) 1||2/5/4||307||Faker (Fizz) 3||7/4/6||318|
|Wuxx (Jhin) 2||1/5/6||297||Bang (Sivir) 1||6/3/9||351|
|Mata (Leona) 3||0/3/5||47||Wolf (Soraka) 2||0/2/15||23|
Game 4: Royal Never Give Up vs. SK Telecom T1
Win: SKT (9-0, 27:55)
Facing the threat of elimination, RNG completely changed its ban strategy to target champions SKT was having success on. As a result, SKT ended up with three extremely strong picks for players comfortable with them: Maokai, Kindred and Ryze.
SKT built an 8k lead by 20 minutes, with 100% kill participation for Duke's Maokai and a pair of kills for Faker's Ryze. It was a vintage clean perfect game for SKT, as RNG did not pick up a single objective or kill in the game.
Bans: Fizz, Soraka, Sivir; Twitch, Lucian, Alistar
|Looper (Poppy) 3||0/3/0||210||Duke (Maokai) 1||1/0/5||266|
|mlxg (Graves) 2||0/1/0||124||Blank (Kindred) 2||2/0/5||124|
|xiaohu (Azir) 1||0/2/0||216||Faker (Ryze) 1||3/0/4||233|
|Wuxx (Tristana) 3||0/1/0||234||Bang (Ezreal) 2||2/0/4||283|
|Mata (Braum) 2||0/2/0||38||Wolf (Karma) 3||1/0/5||14|